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Biden administration to appeal ruling against free preventive health services

President Biden marks the 13th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act on March 23 during a White House ceremony. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)
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The Biden administration told a Texas federal court Friday that it plans to appeal an order by a judge that invalidates the Affordable Care Act’s promise of free preventive health services to every American with private health insurance.

The one-paragraph filing by the Justice Department says the defendants in the case, including Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, intend to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, a conservative circuit based in New Orleans.

The notice came a day after U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor issued an order that immediately invalidates nationwide the ACA’s guarantee of preventive services — including cancer screening and medicines to prevent HIV or heart disease. O’Connor is the judge who, in 2018, ruled the entire ACA unconstitutional in a case that reached the Supreme Court, which preserved the law for the third time in a decade.

Texas judge invalidates ACA promise of free preventive health services

The decision affects any type of services defined or updated by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in the 13 years that the health-care law has existed. O’Connor’s order does not touch other types of prevention, including contraception or vaccines, that are required by other parts of the Department of Health and Human Services and that, unlike the task force, involve approval by presidential appointees.

Legal experts and public health advocates who have followed the case, begun in 2020 by a group of conservative Christian businesses and individuals, had predicted the administration would appeal O’Connor’s ruling. The administration also has been expected to seek a stay, to prevent the judge’s injunction so that the no-charge services are protected while the case is being appealed to the circuit court and, potentially, the Supreme Court.